Quiet as a Mouse by Asta Idonea (review)

Tagline: Shy church mouse shifter trapped by his feelings for the choirmaster

Quiet as a Mouse Book Cover Image

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Title: Quiet as a Mouse
Author: Asta Idonea
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (8k words, 25 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-515-1

Retail:  $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star   (I really liked it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: Shy shifter Paul becomes the proverbial church mouse to spend more time with choirmaster Cale.  While it wasn’t enough for the agnostic young man to join the church choir, spying on the musician and his soaring artistry caused a shift in his perspective, laying out a trap for his heart.

Review: This short story included themes I really enjoy, including music (especially soaring church music) as well as an agnostic struggling to enjoy the beauty of religious art (and his feelings for the church choirmaster).  Of course, I always love a sweet but shy protagonist, and there was just the right touch of hesitation about how accepting the otherwise friendly village will be about his crush on the talented and attractive man.  The brief exploration of the beauty of music with a darling “crushing on him” story made for a light and wonderfully escapist reading experience.  Tweaking the basic “boy secretly wants boy” plot with some fun shifter flavor simply added to the sweetness for me.

Recommended for fans of: short and sweet love stories; shy guys secretly crushing on a guy who might be straight; the artistry of religious, choir, and/or organ music.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire  – Nothing explicit or on page, but sweet crushing and yearning instead (with one beautiful kiss).
Passion: heart  heart  heart   – Some nice initial chemistry between two young men yearning for each other (in a tentative manner due to fear of homophobia).
Genre:  Romance


Other Comments (with spoilers):
The attraction between the two was clear, and even their appreciation, respect, and “like” for each other.  However, the  “love” word was over-the-top, making this more of a sweet, escapist fairy tale more than realistic contemporary romance (which, of course, fits fine with a “mouse shifter” theme).
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Putting Down Roots by Tam MacNeil (review)

Tagline: Bookstore clerk gets a teaching job in an isolated manor rooted in a haunted village

Putting Down Roots Book Cover Image

Title: Putting Down Roots
Author: Tam MacNeil
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (9k words, 29 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-512-0

Retail:  $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star   (I really liked it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released to me one per day during the month of June.


Synopsis: Working at a dead-end job in a bookstore,  Mark is lonely, unhappy, 29, and waiting for a chance to use his teaching certification. However, when a professional opportunity finally turns up, it is with an unhappy, isolated student in a village that is rumored to be haunted. His experiences at the rural manor, and with the student’s  strangely attractive father, begin to make him think there might be something about those  rumors.

Review:   It’s almost difficult for me to call this a romance, as it was the slow exploration and realization of the nature of the “haunted” village and manor that was the focus of the story.  I thought the author did a great job of quickly teasing out a different and interesting paranormal setting.  I am generally not a fan of “haunting” mysteries and stories, but the balance of the supernatural, personal, and intriguing characters worked very nicely for me.  The sprouting of attraction and a potential relationship was fine, but the real pull of the writing to me focused on the nice hints and superficial but very intriguing revelations of the nature of the fae blessing/curse covering the setting.

Recommended for fans of: lightly haunted villages and houses; May-December (or maybe July-October) gay pairings; alternate, fae-flavored shifter meme.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire – The promise was there for two lonely men.
Passion: heart  heart   – There really wasn’t much chemistry between the characters to be found in the exposition, but the overall story seemed to portray genuine attraction to me.
Genre:  Romance


Other Comments (with spoilers):
I found the image describing the area to be nicely enticing, a biscuit box bringing back fond memories: The village was the type most often seen on biscuit boxes and old postcards.
I absolutely loved the idea of a fae-influence turning people into trees.  The anthology series presents a nice range of shifter themes, and the idea of a tree-shifter was particularly cool.

More Beautiful Than a Unicorn by Bell Ellis (review)

Tagline: Fairy tale of a shy virgin with both a unicorn and an exotic hero who keep fading away

More Beautiful than a Unicorn Book Cover Image

Title: More Beautiful Than a Unicorn 
Author: Bell Ellis
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (12k words, 38 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-514-4

Retail: $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star  star  star  half-star   (I liked it alot! – but I’m a sucker for fairy tales)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.

Synopsis: At 25 years of age, Tobias is a bit frustrated at being a virgin and being alone, but when he begins catching sight of a unicorn, he’s not sure what to do.  After being rescued by some ruffians by the exotic Amar, Tobias realizes he wants more love and connection than he’s had, but more than anything he just needs to spend time with someone he really loves.


Review: A fairy tale through and through, the author brings a little character to fabled characters, including a sweet but earnest modern male virgin and a stout, experienced, and true Unicorn stallion.  Tobias comes across as a truthful and truly  shy young man slowly thrust into a fantastical story.  The connection between the protagonists moved a bit more swiftly (at least in terms of exposition, although it developed over a longer bit of “story” time) than in a full romance novel, but decently on pace for a short story-length fairy tale.  The ending had an interesting twist, cementing the focus of the story, which I say would be the importance of a pure love.


Recommended for fans of: Fairy tales; unicorns; sweet virgin men; the power of love (almost at first sight); sweet and simple sappiness (in a good but simple way) over sizzle.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire  fire – not explicit, mostly fade to black, but some heated hints and tantalizing tastes
Passion: heart  heart  – A tremendous amount of love and passion implied, but in a fairy tale kind of way (rather than sizzling, although fans of denial might find it even more compelling)
Genre:  Adult Romance

Fieldwork by Charles Payseur (review)

Tagline: Shy shifter with a secret is thrust into a dangerous, field-agent assignment with a buff partner (who just might be a “danger” in his own way)

Fieldwork Book Cover Image

Title: Fieldwork 
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (12k words, 38 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-510-6

Retail:  $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star  (I really liked it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: Everyone thinks Agent Ignacio Ritter, a desk agent at the Central Xenomorph Organization, is a wolf-shifter, and he is too embarrassed to reveal the truth.  When paired with tiger shifter field Agent Reed Daily, mysteries may be investigated.


Review:  Overall, this was an enjoyable, quick jaunt into the life of an accountant with a “shameful” secret being drawn out into dangerous but important situation and exposed to a big, tough, and interesting man.  I’m a sucker for the shy, quiet protagonist being drawn out by more agresssive characters around them, and this aspect of the story worked very well for me.  As a reserved anti-hero, Nacho was not too passive, but for me had a nice balance of awkwardness with a reason or two to stand forth.  Reed was not very complex, but a pleasantly tantalizing and accepting foil for the more introverted protagonist.  The Chicago mob theme added an interesting flavor, with a shifter twist, but was mostly dressing for Nacho’s personal struggle and story.

Recommended for fans of:  Awkward, smaller, less aggressive protagonists; buff men who respect and like the quiet, little guy; a nod to Chicago mob activity with a shifter twist.

Sizzle:
Heat: fire  –   Not explicit, but the promise of more…
Passion: heart    heart  – There clearly was some attraction between the two, and a start to some chemistry.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:

I enjoyed the plot device regarding target practice giving the two potential partners a reason to quickly expose some of their story to each other (and the reader).  “For every shot you miss, you answer one of my questions.”

Shifter By Mark Wildyr (review)

Tagline: The young native, his best bud, the enchanted isle, and trans-formative magic witch unleashes true desires with plenty of sizzle

Shifter Book Cover Image

Title: Shifter
Author: Mark Wildyr
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Erotica
Format:  Short Story (5k words, 19 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-508-3

Retail: $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star   (I really liked it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis:  Recently come of age, Gray Fox paddles across the lakes to visit his long-time but separated friend.  A spirit on an enchanted isle has ideas on how the young man should enter adulthood, perhaps giving the canoeist a story to share upon their reunion.

Review:  This erotic story might not be typical m/m romance, or necessarily appealing to those looking for more romantic, relationship focused stories, or typical shifters.  This rather atypical shifter really worked for me, and the combination of a coming of age/”first-time” sizzle with just enough of an interesting story and relationship really worked for me.

In short, the native/indingenous setting was a nice frame for a rather sizzling short tale, invoking some nice “shifting” magic to turn up the heat.  A budding attraction between two recently come of age young men was a light but appreciated touch to round out the “first time” vibe.  This alternate shifter might not work for some readers of m/m romance, but I really liked the weave of sizzle, magic, a trans-formation, and a bit of young love (or at least lust).

Recommended for fans of:  Nicely sexual native/indigenous/First People spirituality and shifting; those who don’t mind a bit of a feminine touch in their m/m romance;  sexy witch stories.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire fire  –  The focus of this read was the explicit heat which, for some readers, might be a tad different than typical m/m romance encounters.
Passion: heart  heart   – Clearly some atraction between the two friends, but the physical heat seemed more important.
Genre:  Erotica


Other Comments (with spoilers):
I personally loved the gender fluid aspect of the story, a bit of a trans-forming witchcraft made the “witch” character an intriguing place to me (and I personally am not squicked by female sexuality mixed in with my m/m romance).
Also, two “straight” young men overcoming their prejudice and enjoying what they have likely longed for.

Spiked and Feathered by Jessica Walsh (review)

Tagline: Stressed call center boy hits a new bar leading to sizzling and feathered stress-relieving experiences

spiked-and-feathered

Title: Spiked and Feathered 
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (7k words, 21 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-506-9

Retail:  $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star half-star (2.75 stars – I liked it ok.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: After a particularly bad day on the phones,  Anthony hits a strange bar to unwind a bit, and hits it hard. The results include a hint of just what kind of bar it is and just what kind of trip that kind of establishment can deliver, but the evening in the bar was just the beginning.  Waking up within sweet shits and a hint of feathers takes Anthony to another level of “escape” from work.

Review: While this is another story that is not overly compelling, it was certainly an enjoyable trip.  Anthony was very sympathetic, the grind at the end of the day all too real and his attempt to escape and unwind (and overindulge) read well – nicely evocative of the “bad day at a bad job” blues.  After an empathetic set up, the journey turns plenty wilder and hotter, with trip into typical/sexy and a bit more fantastic fantasy spiced with sizzle and a bit of imagination.

Recommended for fans of: quick, heated escapes at the end of a long day; bird shifters; frustrated workers looking for some (a bit sizzling) relief.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire fire – For a short story, there were a couple of heated and explicitly enticing exchanges.
Passion: heart  heart  heart   – The chemistry was physical but the lust and excitment seemed true.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
I am very much enjoying the emergence of openly (and usually non-chalantly) bisexual main characters.

More Fish in the Sea by Fil Preis (review)

Tagline:  Betrayed Wiccan bisexual slips to Hawaii to beseech the Moon to get away from the players and sharks, but the tricky, finicky Goddess delivers a shifty shark anyway

More Fish in the Sea Book Cover Image

Title: More Fish in the Sea
Author: Fil Preis
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (18k words, 49 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-505-2

Retail: $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star  half-star  (3.5 stars – I liked it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released to me one per day during the month of June.


Synopsis: The Arizona dude did not trust his Wiccan bisexual boyfriend to be true, so he cheated first. The Hawaiian shark shifter lost his boyfriend when the modern man refused to respect the traditional, spiritual beliefs of the Islands’ native and mysterious people.  Can a Wiccan’s prayer to the moon be answered?  Can a man from the people of the Shark ever find someone who respects him?  And how can two betrayed men ever learn to trust another?

Review: While this was not an extremely revitting read for me, overall the themes of betrayal and trust combined with some interesting and enticing spirituality worked rather well as a plenty entertaining and nicely different story.  The background and setting – which had at least a bit of complexity and nuance – needed to be explored and explained quickly in this novella, and the character writing moved along nicely without it being too mechanical or simply plodding exposition.  While I found the themes personally enjoyable, I also appreciated how they meshed internally for each of the protagonists’ stories as well as the satisfying manner in which they eventually came together.  I wasn’t totally bowled over, but I very much enjoyed reading a cool story about some common relationship themes wrapped nicely in some alternative character and cultural concepts.

Recommended for fans of:  Lovable sharks; indigenous/pagan/Wiccan spirituality; Hawaii; bisexuals finding their one true love.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire  fire   –  A couple of mostly fade to black moments, but with a tiny bit of explicit tid-bits.
Passion: heart heart – The past hurt borne by each character gave some life and chemistry to their connection.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
I absolutely loved how the unfair stereotype of bisexuals that they can be expected to stray was turned on it’s head. (It’s as ridiculous as expecting someone to stray because they find both blondes and brunettes attractive, but that “bi must be unfaithful” stereotype is definitely out there among both gay and straight partners.)
Jarrett also couldn’t change the fact that he was bisexual. Bradan kept making comments that Jarrett was going to cheat on him with a woman, or that he didn’t have the guts to come out as gay. Jarrett wasn’t a cheater. He believed in one partner at a time. And he’d definitely had the guts to tell his family that he was dating Bradan. Why didn’t Bradan understand? How did the fact that he’d dated a girl in high school, and loved her, and found her attractive, somehow become, in Bradan’s mind, proof that Jarrett’s attraction wasn’t as “pure” as his? And in the end, Jarrett wasn’t the one who’d cheated.”

Always Follow Your Goat by Nora Roth (review)

Tagline: Experienced camp counselor who is also a nervous fox shifter lead nicely astray by a goat

Always Follow Your Goat Book Cover Image

Title: Always Follow Your Goat 
Author: Nora Roth
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (9 k words, 23 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

SitesPublisherGoodreads
Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-504-5

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:  star star half-star  (2.5 stars – It was o.k.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: Newly minted veterarian Noah Matthews is attending his shifter summer camp one last time, serving as a counselor before moving on to his first professional position.  In addition to the usual issues with a stern but well-meaning boss, teens with crushes, and camper rambunctiousness, Noah has to deal with a wandering, bleating, and meddling goat.  Of course Milly does lead him to a neighboring cabin, where a hunky neighbor is more intriguing than another round of camp politics.


Review: This story was sweet and simple. While not very complex, it does provide a nice view into the counselor’s thoughts and his mixed feelings regarding what his involvement with the camp meant to him.  The setting and the character’s changing life are evoked through Jack’s internal musings about being a camp counselor, dealing with a strong but somewhat pushy boss, and his own nervousness regarding shifting.  Milly the goat had an amusing but brief role in the story.  Shifter-human relations were barely mentioned, but just the ideas floated seemed to be potentially interesting and I would have liked to hear more (but that’s just part of the limitations of a short story). Frankly I was hoping for a bit more of the goat!

But as intriguing as I find ideas about summer camps for shifters as well as nervous and cute fox shifters to be, the story’s climax is a potential hook-up with the neighbor man.  Overall, the author painted an interesting if not overly-compelling summer camp background for what technically is an adult fling.  In reality, you could have taken the shifter element entirely out of the story and still had a nice little coming-of-age/summer camp rendezvous story, with the potential for either a happy ending or at least a fond memory.

Recommended for fans of: fox shifters; summer camp hook-ups; meddling bleaters (goats).

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire – One brief but explicit scene
Passion: heart  heart – a tiny bit of chemistry, present but not particularly compelling
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
There were occasional interesting comments on the characters, the camp, and the shifter world.  I chuckled when I read the shifters referring to humans who lusted after them as “tail chasers,” in the most literal sense of the word tail. “God, he hoped Jack wasn’t a tail chaser.”

Bye-Bye Birdie by Lex Chase (review)

Tagline: Jilted at the altar, parakeet shifter seeks solace on a cruise only to run into his ex and extreme danger – will the  iguana shifter’s heroics be enough to save all that is at risk?

Bye-Bye Birdie Book Cover Image

Title: Bye-Bye Birdie 
Author: Lex Chase
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (10 k words, 39 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-497-0

Retail: $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating   star   star   star  (2.75 stars – It was o.k.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: Christopher Robin and Dashiell Hammond couldn’t be more different. Dash is an iguana shifter who provides aid for natural disasters far and wide, but Chris is a flighty parakeet shifter who can’t find his way across town without Google Maps. To Chris, Dash is a superhero, but he spent more time saving the world than saving their relationship.


Review: An interesting and evocative exploration of a split up (basically divorced) couple thrown back together in less than ideal, indeed dangerous situations.  The heart of the story is working through the relationship issues of a broken 12-year engagement, revealed in drips and drabs sprinkled through the narrative.  On the one hand, neither of the protagonists seemed perfect or blameless, and both clearly had been hurt by the break-up. However, it’s hard to understand just what went wrong or, on the other hand, why they stayed together for so long if the two of them really wanted such different things.  In short, while it was a fascinating glimpse at a broken but at some level still deeply loving relationship, the exposition only gave small glimpses at just how this long term relationship lasted as long as it did in the face of differing priorities.

The focus of the book is clearly Christopher’s complex feelings about himself, his lost life, and his ex-fiancé. Overall this was a sometimes fascinating look at an imperfect but usually sympathetic individual, but also oddly unfulfilling for me.  While I appreciated some of the uneven qualities in the protagonist, I did not feel to drawn into his connection with his ex-fiancé, and did not really care if they got back together or not.

Part of my disconnect may be because the danger of the shipwreck and the jungle survival seemed simplistic and not particularly compelling.  As that was not the focus of the book, it’s not a large issue, but it doesn’t do much to further the main narrative.

On the positive side, it was an interesting exploration of differing expectations within a relationship, the difficulties of prioritizing one’s partner’s needs versus one’s own, and the sacrifices required to build and reinforce a loving partnership.


Recommended for fans of: Those interested into dissecting and exploring a damaged and lost but possibly recoverable relationship.

Other Comments:
The problem with reviewing anthologies is if one wants to be complete, one reads things that may be out of one’s comfort zone or just not in one’s wheelhouse.

They Called Him Nightmare by Deja Black (review)

Tagline: Two creatures of the night – one dark, one light – cannot forget a burning touch
Alternate tag:  a vampire’s thirst and need to possess encounters a hotly burning dark man with deeper secrets

They Called Him Nightmare Book Cover Image

Title: They Called Him Nightmare
Author: Deja Black
Genre:  Paranormal Gay Erotica
Format:  Short Story (7k words, 26 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-502-1

Retail:  $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star  star  star  star  star  (5 stars – I loved it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: Kai Bennu, a man of dark skin and even darker secrets, is taunted as a Nightmare in his small Carolina town.  Golden boy Alex Vasilios is more than intrigued by the Nightmare, yet all of his powerful charm cannot real him in.  A mere touch between the two leaves an immediate burn and a long-term sizzle that does not dissipate. When it is time for men to move on in life, can anything replace and surpass that supernatural boyhood burning and yearning?

Review:  I am not sure how to even begin to review this without revealing the tantalizing details of the story.  Normally, I try not to reveal any more (or at least not too much more) than the publisher’s synopsis unveils.  This short story switches back and forth between the two protagonists, revealing the core hunger and fears of both boys and then men as they each struggle with their own fantastic natures.  The exposition for each character is absolutely compelling, enticing, and enchanting, engaging my rapt attention like no other story has in a long time.

The switch between the point of view that quickly thrusts deep secrets and longings out to the reader obviously worked extremely well for me, binding me in a spell of interest and fascination that usually takes chapters upon chapters to evoke from me as a reader.  While this writing style might not work for some, it took my breath away, reeling me into a supernatural short story incredibly quickly and effectively.

The ultimate physical connection was fine, but the reveal at the end was a perfect payoff for me.


Recommended for fans of: Extremely light and rather dark fantastical creatures; first person point-of-view of quickly and piercingly laying out the longings and fears of supernatural creatures living in a sea of humanity.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire  fire  fire –  Only two explicit scenes, but they burned very hot for me.
Passion: heart  heart  heart  heart  – For such a short story, it’s hard to imagine more passion that worked for me


Other Comments (spoilers):

The vampire’s narration was the most compelling description of supernatural hunger and lust I have read in quite a while.